Bell SkunkWorks 101

*New Harvard Nieman Article



Are any of these names familiar to you: TRAC, APT, Issue Dynamics, USIIA, New Millennium Research Council, BellSouth, Verizon, SBC, Pac Bell, United Church of Christ, USTA? - Washington is filled with astroturf groups that keep telling everyone they represent the public interest, but in reality represent the phone companies who pay them well. And Issue Dynamics, run by Sam Simon, has organized multiple groups for the Bell phone companies, all tax exempt, and all in an attempt to make regulators and the press believe that they have your best interests in mind.

Issue Dynamics

Learn more about:



New Millennium

Bell Broadband Cabal & Harm To Competition

Harm to Wireless and Municipalities: Sock Puppets

United Church of Christ

Control of the FCC?

(or continue down this page)


Issue Dynamics

  • IDI was the first to put up a corporate public affairs site on the World Wide Web for Bell Atlantic (1993)
  • Issue Dynamics’ Sam Simon Named New Chair of the National Consumers League, 12/17/02
  • "Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe confirmed that IDI is working for the telephone company. 'We are happy to support groups that have similar views as ours, and Sam is bringing us together',"
  • "During the year, TRAC purchased goods and services from an affiliated taxable organization named Issue Dynamics, inc. Issue Dynamic, Inc. provides management services as well as overhead costs for fees to TRAC."
  • "The New Millennium Research Council (NMRC) is an independent project of Issue Dynamics, Inc.(IDI)"
  • "Ms. Rosenthal is Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Technology and Assistant Vice President of Issue Dynamics Inc."
  • Client List: Ameritech, TRAC, APT, BellSouth, Verizon, Bell Atlantic, Pac Bell, USTA, GTE, New Millennium Research Council, USIIA, Verizon Wireless, NAACP,SBC, National Latino Telecommunications Task Force...
  • Stranger than Fiction

Bell Companies (ILECs) and their amazing astroturf machine, Ionary, October 2004

"It's called astroturf. Not the stadium rug for which it's named, but the creation of phony "grass roots" organizations as public relations fronts. In the telecom world, the king of astroturf is Sam Simon, whose firm, Issue Dynamics Inc. (IDI), describes its public relations job as "developing a campaign that gets your messages out through paid and earned media". "Earned" media? I wonder if they teach that in J-school. "Issue Dynamics provides a full package of professional stakeholder management services for clients who seek strategic alliances with stakeholders in the following segments: consumer, civil rights, education, disability, senior citizens, Hispanic, African-American, Asian-Pacific American, Native American, small business, rural, state/local government associations, technology, among others." Yep, stakeholders for sale! Want to get support from Left-handed Samoans against pay cable? Sure, that group can probably be created for a fee too. IDI counts the RBOCs among its key clients."

 Leading Bell Skunkworks Architect

"Stranger than Fiction"

Samuel A. Simon, Founder and President
Samuel A. Simon is a nationally recognized authority on consumer and public affairs, with twenty-six years experience at the highest levels of his profession. Mr. Simon pioneered the practice of bridging gaps between industry and non-traditional consumer groups on public policy, marketing and consumer affairs issues to achieve win-win solutions for clients. IDI is a true pioneer in developing public affairs web sites and grassroots strategies on the Internet."

(We note that Simon is a board member of the National Consumer League, APT, the Fairfax Consumer Commission, and Call For Action --- All four groups are on the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC))
  • Chairman, Board of Directors, National Consumers League --- NCL is a CAC board member.
  • Commissioner, Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission --Fairfax is a CAC member.
  • Board Member, Call For Action --- Call for Action is the Chairman of the CAC Committee
  • Chairman of the Board, TRAC.
  • Recipient, Susan B. Hadden Pioneer Award, Alliance for Public Technology (1999) -- Award Given by APT


Stranger than Fiction

The Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture

"Sponsored by the United Church of Christ and TRAC". (TRAC/Parker Lecture)

Sam Simon Used to Be a Consumer Advocate and Worked with Nader

"Citizen Action:Chapter 5 ..through the confusion of telephone deregulation, for example, TRAC published Reverse the Charges: How to Save Money on Your Phone Bill."


"Samuel A Simon, Chairman of the Board of TRAC, the Telecommunications Research and Action Center was honored on February 18th when he was awarded the Susan G. Hadden Pioneer in Telecommunication Access honor. The distinction was announced by William E. Kennard, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, at a reception hosted by the Alliance for Public Technology."


Alliance For Public Technology

APT Sponsors

  • BellSouth
  • Intel
  • SBC (Ameritech, Southwestern, SNET)
  • SBC California (formerly Pacific Bell)
  • TracFone Wireless
  • Verizon (Bell Atlantic, NYNEX and GTE)
This represents 8 out of 9 original Bell groups, including GTE, SNET.

APT Staff SYLVIA ROSENTHAL, Executive Director --- VP IDI.

"As Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Technology, Sylvia Rosenthal oversees the management of the organization and all of its projects, including the newsletter and the annual Susan G. Hadden awards program. Ms. Rosenthal is also Assistant Vice President of Issue Dynamics Inc. where she devotes her time exclusively to management of APT."



"Washington, D.C., January 13, 2005 - The Alliance for Public Technology (APT) announced today that Daniel B. Phythyon, a former Chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, has been named as APT's Public Policy Director-General Counsel." He is also "Senior Vice President, Law and Policy at the United States Telecom Association (“USTA”)" the phone company lobby.



In February 2005, Teletruth filed a Complaint with Congress and the FCC, claiming that business interests controlled the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee. Teletruth was a member (2003-2004).

In 2003-2004, about 1/3 of the entire FCC Consumer Advisory Committee are the lawyers for these companies and associations — AT&T, BellSouth, Cingular, (BellSouth & SBC) Verizon (Bell Atlantic, NYNEX, GTE), MCI, Cellular Telecom. and Internet Association, National Association of Broadcasters, Telecommunications Industry Association, and the National Cable Telecommunications Association. See a List of Members

On further analysis, we found numerous groups tied to Issue Dynamics and Sam Simon, including APT, National Consumer League (Sam Simon is on the NCL board), Call For Action (Simon is on the CFA board), among others.

UPDATE: MARCH 8th, 2005 A new Committee was created (Word file) --- Same Problems: 

  • Alliance for Public Technology, Daniel Phythyon: is Senior Vice President, Law and Policy at the United States Telecom Association (“USTA”).
  • National Association of Broadcasters,Sprint Corporation, Time Warner, T-Mobile, Verizon, Nextel Communications, Inc., Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, and Consumer Electronics Association,

Snow job, Network World, 1/26/98

"IDI's associates help to organize and manage coalitions with names such as the "Alliance for Public Technology" and "Keep America Connected"…The literature for each group lists a different phone number manned by an IDI employee who answers the phone with the name of that coalition. It also lists either IDI's street address or a District of Columbia post office box.

"The group's chairman, Dr. Barbara O'Connor, bristled at the suggestion that the alliance is a front for anything, noting that it has even held a seat on the FCC's prestigious Network Reliability Council….But of the alliance's $190,000-per-year budget, approximately $100,000 is supplied by the regional Bell operating companies, she said. Not surprisingly, last October, the alliance wrote the FCC in support of BellSouth's South Carolina long-distance application and has consistently supported other RBOC policy positions."



In 2000, APT, the Communications Workers of America, National Council on the Aging, National Hispanic Council on Aging, United Homeowners Association, League of United Latin American Citizens, among others backed a phone company proposal to raise the FCC Line Charge, known as the "CALLS  Proposal"-- It worked.

Why should you care? There are new plans in 2005 to raise your rates again.

The APT report was written by Stephen Pociask, President, TeleNomic Research, LLC. "former Chief Economist for Bell Atlantic".

Support from Consumer Groups -- Working or Funded by the Phone companies.

"The plan drew praise from the Citizenship Education Fund, an affiliate of Rainbow/PUSH, led by Rev. Jesse Jackson: "We want to lend our voice to those other consumer, disability and minority groups supporting the modified CALLS proposal, including the Alliance for Public Technology, the Communications Workers of America, Telecommunications for the Deaf and other leading national organizations. "

See the Supporters of CALLs --- Those Rounded up by APT and Issue Dynamics

CALLS Information on Prices? --From "Webpicer" by TRAC

CALLS Information on Phone Charges-National Consumer League, and USTA--- Funded by Verizon and SBC.

"Under a grant from Verizon and SBC, the National Consumer League developed its website on “Understanding Your Phone Bill."

VOIP Coalition, Digital Divide Coalition Keep USF Fair Coalition

APT has helped to create the "Keep USF FAIR Coaltion", with full page adds in USA Today in February 2005. In 2004, APT created the VOIP Coalition (Voice over the Internet). Both are filled with a mixture of the same players and their positions are related to the phone companies' needs. For example, instead of demanding an investigation into the problem-ridden Universal Service Fund, this group wants what's fair for the phone companies --- increase the USF, but leave it alone. Another campaign "Americans for the Digital Divide" in 2001, backed giving the phone companies new freedoms and more money -- all in the name of broadband. 



NAACP, BELL ATLANTIC ANNOUNCE COMMUNICATIONS ALLIANCE Agreement Will Provide NAACP with Web Site, Allow Members to Connect On-line, July, 1996

"Bell Atlantic Internet Solutions will host the NAACP's Web site, which was designed with Issue Dynamics Inc., a public affairs consulting firm that works to build bridges between the public, consumer interests, industry and government leaders."


APT and NAACP, Petitioning to Allow Verizon offer Long Distance Service In Massachusetts.

"APT, therefore, strongly concurs with the comments of The National Association For the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that state: "Verizon's entry into the Massachusetts long-distance market will help in narrowing the digital divide by creating an additional competitive entity in the telecommunications services available to the people of Massachussets..."

 Other commentors: 

  • National Association of Commissions for Women, (SBC and Verizon Logo is featured on Home Page)
  • National Puerto Rican Coalition, (Got $30,000 from SBC Foundation in 2002
  • National Urban League (Got over $225,000 from SBC Foundation in 2002)

VOIP Coalition, Digital Divide Coalition Keep USF Fair Coalition

 Groups signed onto these campaigns include:


Jesse Jackson Is Quieted by Phone Company Donations:

The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which deregulated the industry but mandated minority set-asides, gave Jackson plenty of room to meddle. When Viacom wanted to sell a subsidiary during merger negotiations between SBC and Ameritech, AT&T and TCI, and GTE and Bell Atlantic (which created Verizon) Jackson worried aloud about their impact on minority business and announced his readiness to help negotiate a settlement over minority “access” and “inclusion.” The shakedown produced millions of dollars in contracts to Jackson cronies and hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate contributions to Jackson’s nonprofits, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Citizenship Education Fund (CEF). The upshot? SBC/Ameritech gave CEF $500,000, AT&T gave $425,000, Viacom - $422,500, GTE - $740,000, Bell Atlantic - $800,000 and Verizon - $1,675,000. Jackson overcame his concerns and praised the companies’ commitment to diversity.


"President of the Verizon Foundation, ties:... responsible for developing strategic Foundation priorities, budgeting and allocation of grants.. She presently serves as...the Corporate Committee of the National Urban League, and the NAACP Special Contributions Board".

TRAC: Telecommunications Research & Action Center.
  • TRAC is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, membership organization located...
  • IRS 1999-2001, statement 4, Schedule A

    "During the year, TRAC purchased goods and services from an affiliated taxable organization named Issue dynamics, inc. Issue Dynamic, Inc. provider management services as well as overhead costs for fees to TRAC."

Board of Advisors
  • Samuel A. Simon, Chairman
  • Rev. Robert Chase, is Minister and Team Leader of the Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry of the United Church of Christ.
  • Henry Geller has served on the TRAC Board for nearly ten years.
  • Henry Geller, Counsel to the Alliance for Public Technology.
  • Rev. Dr. Everett Parker is the founder and former director of the Office of Comm. of the United Church of Christ (UCC).
  • Dirck A. Hargraves, Secretary and Counsel serves as Secretary and Counsel to TRAC. He served as president of the Alexandria, Virginia Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He is currently general counsel and senior consultant with Issue Dynamics, Inc.


Idahoans for Telecommunications Competition - More IDI Skunkworks

Consumers in 4 States Could Save $1.7 Billion (see glossy PDF newsletter)

"A new study by (TRAC) found that consumers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida and Georgia could save at least $507 million and up to $1.73 billion on local phone and long distance service after one year of increased competition."

"The evidence is clear and compelling: open entry for all competitors in the long distance market can result in significant savings for consumers," TRAC Chairman Samuel A. Simon

"TRAC, the nation's leading telecommunications focused consumer group, has been publishing long distance rate comparisons for consumers and small businesses since 1984. The two new studies update similar New York surveys in 1999 and 2000."


TRAC "source" code: "Designed and developed by Issue Dynamics, Inc. For more information see"


Who Paid for this TRAC New Jersey Report and Others? (doc)

TRAC lost money every year and didn't even make back its management running expenses. Who paid for this report?

TRAC's mission for the last five years has been to make the long distance carriers look bad and help the Bell companies enter long distance. And it is funded by the Bell companies through Issue Dynamics. Go through the site and look for questioning the business practices of Verizon, BellSouth or SBC. Then compare that to AT&T and MCI!


TRAC Financials, 2002

In 2002, TRAC made $19,600, had $47,000 of expenses, and owed Issue Dynamics$122,000 liabilities.









 Bogus Data For Bell's Long Distance Entry

TRAC created a series of questionable reports for Verizon so that they could enter the long distance markets in various states. This material was used by Verizon in their press releases and filings.

Verizon Asks SCC to Support Company's Request To Offer Long Distance in Virginia Filing Brings Virginians Step Closer to Full Telecom Competition 3/15/02

"A study by the consumer organization Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC) estimated that New Yorkers are saving up to $700 million a year in local and long-distance charges since Verizon began providing long-distance service in the Empire State in January 2000. Another TRAC study forecasted that Pennsylvanians could save up to $452 million in the first year after Verizon began offering long-distance service there last October.".


Testimony by Economics & Technology

(PDF: Contains 1999 IRS Filing, showing losses)

"The so called consumer group that released these long distance studies, TRAC, is actually the creation of a Washington, DC public relations firm who's clients include Verizon, all of the other Bell companies, and the Bell companies' lobbying organization, the United States Telephone Association."

"The study's various assertions and assumptions, and the conclusions based thereon, are demonstrably false"

Note: this testimony was for AT&T. However, NNI has independently confirmed the analysis, and ETI is one of the respected, read ethical, telecom research firms. (For Verizon's entry into Long Distance in Virginia, 2002)


Sam Takes Consumer Groups to Fight For Bell Broadband.

What do all of these groups have in common?

  • Gray Panthers
  • American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
  • Black Leadership Forum
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

This group jointly signed an ex parte letter to the FCC that says the Bell companies shouldn't have to open their fiber-optic networks to competition. Why is it important for these groups to support the Bell companies and why would they care? Well, work by Ionary Consulting revealed that these groups got large donations from Verizon:

  • $50,000 to the Black Leadership Forum
  • $205,500 to LULAC
  • AAPD got "major" donations from both Verizon and the Verizon Foundation, and put a Verizon VP on its own board.


Harm To Competition 101

In order to get rid of competitors, Verizon hired IDI to create a fake rally, got the Gray Panthers to run adds, and even got the Church of Christ involved.

  • "Gray Panther Ads Targeting WorldCom Funded by IDI Corporate Crime Reporter, 6/2/03 Earlier this month, the Gray Panthers, a public interest group that defends the rights of senior citizens, took out full page ads in newspapers around the country calling on federal officials to stop awarding federal contracts to MCI WorldCom -- which committed one of the largest corporate frauds in history. At the bottom of the ads, in small type, is this :"This ad was paid for by Gray Panthers."

    "In fact, the $200,000 spent by the Gray Panthers to place the newspaper ads was raised by Issue Dynamics Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that represents the Baby Bells in their fight against WorldCom and that specializes in "bridging gaps between industry and consumer groups on public policy issues."

  • "United Church of Christ Stooge for the Baby Bells?
  • Gloria Tristani, managing director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ (OC, Inc.) and former Commissioner of the FCC.

Source Watch: Issue Dynamics "...its work has angered some consumer activists, who say IDI often does not disclose whom it is working for and argue that IDI's work amounts to astroturf PR."

WorldCom Opponents In Sync D.C. Firm Helps Organize Protest, Washington Post, 6/30/03

"Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe confirmed that IDI is working for the telephone company. 'We are happy to support groups that have similar views as ours, and Sam is bringing us together,' Rabe said. "...Rabe would not say how much Verizon is paying IDI. He said Verizon is not the only company contributing to a "funding pool" on the WorldCom issue, but he declined to identify other participants."

According to the Washington Post,

"…last year IDI organized an effort by the National Association of the Deaf, the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Association of People With Disabilities to support a bill pushed by the local telephone companies to relax rules that require them to share their high-speed networks with rivals. In a news release issued by IDI, the groups said they would benefit because the bill would increase access to broadband for everyone, including those with disabilities."


Gray Panthers' Corporate Connection, 6/25/03,

"Over the past couple of years, Issue Dynamics played a pivotal role in turning the National Consumers League from a consumer group into a corporate front group. And last year, Sam Simon, Issue Dynamics' founder and president, was named chair of the board of the National Consumers League."

New Millennium Research Council (NMRC)

The NMRC is an independent project of Issue Dynamics, Inc.(IDI),

How to Run a Skunk Works Campaign 101--- IDI enlists NMRC for promotional services and scholar support for economic report for client

"Issue Dynamics worked with the New Millennium Research Council (NMRC) to provide support and exposure for release of a seminal economic study by an economic think tank. This included recruitment of academic and industry experts to provide commentary, and generating earned media pick-up in key national trade journals and major newspapers."


"IDI was able to provide the client with immediate support to finalize the report, host an event and generate significant earned media. ...The study was also cited by two Democratic presidential candidates as a way to reenergize the U.S. economy."



Wi-Fi Net News and others have been doing an in-depth analysis of the harm to wireless and municipalities.

  • eWeek Pulls Socket Puppet from Lobbying Firms' Hand, Wi-Fi Networking News, Glenn Fleishman February 3, 2005
  • New Millennium Report on Municipal Broadband Is Out, Wi-Fi Networking News By Glenn Fleishman, February 3, 2005
  • NMRC’s Policy for Hire, February 04, 2005 By Glenn Fleishman There’s a lot more readily available details about the New Millennium Research Council than I realized: The NMRC is the co-publisher of a report that says municipal broadband is anti-competitive and a waste of taxpayer dollars. eWeek broke the news yesterday that they’re a division of Issue Dynamics, Inc., a group that specializes in creating the appearance of grassroots and independent support for ideas on behalf of their clients. They don’t hide this specialty.
  • Heartland Institute hackery, The Broadband Blog, 2/3/05

Behind the Numbers: Policy groups wage silent war, BroadbandReports, 9/18/03

"The NMRC is a, a consumer and public affairs consulting firm that specializes in developing win-win solutions to complex policy issues. Influencing the Debate: The NMRC influences the policy debate by creating a variety of research products. These include "quick response" pieces in reaction to current news as well as longer-term research."


Free Ride: Deficiencies of the MCI ‘Layers’ Policy Model and the Need (PDF)

Here's how it works: Get a number of "experts" funded by the Bell companies to use their name and organizations. In this case, a respected report by MCI is trashed. Example:

  • Stephen Pociask, President, TeleNomic Research, LLC. Bio doesn't mention "former Chief Economist for Bell Atlantic".
  • David P. McClure, President and CEO, USIIA,. Bio doesn't say this "ISP" group works with IDI and Verizon.


  • Philadelphia to Announce Wi-Fi Expansion Plans, By Wayne Rash, February 3, 2005
  • While preparing this story, learned that the NMRC is actually owned and sponsored by Washington lobbying firm Issue Dynamics Inc., whose clients include most of the major telecommunications companies in the United States. Those companies have been active in opposing municipal wireless and broadband efforts. The company claimed that its reports were nevertheless completely independent.
  • Municipal Wi-Fi: Let's Keep It Local, Eweek, Carol Ellison, February 3, 2005 "Opinion: Yes, municipal Wi-Fi demands research, but more than that, it needs input from the local voters who will pay for it—not legislators or lobbyists at the state level." ..."Advocates of Big Broadband took their case against municipal Wi-Fi public on Thursday with a new report from the New Millennium Research Council. ...."The NMRC made a point to say that none of the researchers who participated received any money from NMRC. But in case you're wondering who's paying the bills at IDI, take a look at its client list. If you don't want to read the whole huge thing, let me summarize those of interest in this issue:Ameritech, Bell South, Comcast, Pacific Bell, Qwest, SBC Communications, Sprint, U.S. West, Verizon and Verizon Wireless."
Verizon Foundation Grants

Verizon's Grants: See Form 990

SBC Foundation Grants

SBC Foundation

(This is a partial list, the data is from "GrantMaker".)


Mafia control?  When these companies give money the expect favors. From "TURF WAR", Telephony, January 2002

In November, two Bay area consumer groups - the Latino Issues Forum and The Greenlining Institute - complained to the California Public Utilities Commission that Pacific Bell had pressured community groups to testify in favor of the Bell companies' bid to enter California's $15 billion kong-distance market. Robert Gnaizda, policy director and general counsel of The Greenlining Institute, told the San Francisco Business Times, "They don't say, 'We'll cut you off, you'll never get any money.' They just use their influence. It's like the Mafia visiting your store and asking how your kids are doing." Gnaizda's group asked the CPUC to investigate the matter, promising to deliver other groups that claim to have been pressured by Pacific Bell - provided the CPUC could protect their anonymity."

  • Urban League
  • Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility
  • National Puerto Rican Coalition
  • World Institute on Disability
  • National Hispanic Council on Aging
  • National Council of La Raza
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
  • Citizens for a Sound Economy
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Cato Institute
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Brookings Institution
  • Chamber of Commerce(s)


IRS LAWS ON 501 (c) (3)

Exemption Requirements

Do the actions of any of these groups violate the non-profit laws?



"To be tax-exempt as an organization described in IRC Section 501(c)(3) of the Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the purposes set forth in IRC Section 501(c)(3) and none of the earnings of the organization may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate at all in campaign activity for or against political candidates"

This material was compiled by New Networks Institute for Teletruth.